11 Best Herbs and Spices for Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup is a hearty and comforting dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. This protein-packed soup is made from split peas that have been dried and split along the natural seam of the pea. This process helps the peas cook faster than whole peas and gives the soup its signature thick and creamy texture.

While split peas have an inherently earthy and savory flavor, herbs and spices can take this soup to the next level. The right blend of herbs and spices enhances the natural flavors of the ingredients, adds aromatic depth, and provides the perfect finishing touch to this beloved soup.

Read on to learn about the 11 best herbs and spices to use in split pea soup and how to use them to create a flavorful and balanced soup that will become a new favorite.

1. Parsley

Parsley is one of the most versatile fresh herbs and is an excellent addition to split pea soup. Curly or Italian parsley varieties both work well, lending a vibrant, fresh, and slightly herbal flavor.

Parsley’s bright taste helps cut through the earthiness of the split peas and adds a pop of color and freshness. Use 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley just before serving the soup to maximize its impact.

Adding the parsley at the end retains its color and flavor. It complements the hearty peas without overpowering the other herbs and spices in the soup.

2. Chives

With their delicate onion flavor, chives are another excellent fresh herb for split pea soup. Chopped chives sprinkled on at the end provide the soup a subtle hit of savoriness that pairs perfectly with the starchy peas.

Use a couple of tablespoons of sliced chives to finish off a pot of split pea soup. Their mild flavor won’t dominate the other ingredients. Instead, it will add an extra layer of savory onion taste that brings out the best in the peas.

3. Thyme

Thyme has an assertive earthy and slightly sweet aroma that feels right at home in split pea soup. Its woodsy notes complement the peas, while its hint of lemon cuts through the soup’s richness.

Use about 1 teaspoon of fresh or 1⁄2 teaspoon of dried thyme per 6 cups of soup. Add it at the beginning so the flavor infuses the entire pot. Thyme holds up well to prolonged cooking.

Just be careful not to use too much, as thyme can become overpowering. Its unique taste is best when it lingers delicately in the background, adding subtle fragrance and flavor.

4. Basil

Sweet basil is not just for pesto and tomato sauces. Its distinctive flavor works well in hearty soups and stews too. For split pea soup, use about 1⁄4 cup packed torn fresh basil leaves or 2 to 3 tablespoons dried basil.

Add the basil shortly before serving so it retains its signature aroma and flavor. The anise-like overtones in basil pair nicely with the nutty peas. It adds a touch of sweetness to balance the soup’s earthy flavor. Just take care not to boil the basil, as this can make it bitter.

5. Oregano

Oregano is a versatile Mediterranean herb that brings robust herbal flavor to many dishes. Its minty pepperiness makes it an excellent addition to split pea soup as well.

Use about 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano per 6 cups of soup. Add it early in cooking so the rich flavor infuses the entire pot.

Oregano’s woodsy taste and subtle bitterness enhance the peas’ earthiness. A pinch added just before serving also provides a nice pop of aroma and flavor. Just a small amount of oregano goes a long way, so add it slowly and taste as you go.

6. Rosemary

With its assertive pine-like fragrance and slightly bitter, resinous taste, rosemary makes a delicious pairing with creamy split peas. Use about 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary per pot of soup.

Add most of the rosemary at the beginning of cooking, and reserve some to add at the end for a hit of fresh aroma right before serving. The hearty nature of rosemary means it can withstand prolonged cooking without losing its flavor.

Rosemary’s strong flavor helps balance the richness of the soup. A little goes a long way though, so be careful not to overdo it. You want rosemary’s taste to complement the peas rather than overpower them.

7. Marjoram

Milder and sweeter than oregano, marjoram adds a delicate herbal note to split pea soup. Its flavor is reminiscent of a blend of oregano and basil.

Use about 1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram per pot of soup. Add most of it early on so the flavor infuses the peas as they cook. Save a bit to stir in right at the end for a fresh punch.

Marjoram’s gentle savory-sweet taste brightens up the soup without overpowering the split peas or other seasonings. A small amount is all you need to give the soup a lovely herbal lift.

8. Bay Leaves

Bay leaves have a woodsy and mildly herbal aroma that enhances many soups and stews. Their flavor is robust, so a little goes a long way.

For split pea soup, add 2 dried bay leaves or 3 fresh leaves per pot. Place them into the soup pot whole, then remove them before serving. This infuses the soup with bay’s warming flavors without the risk of someone accidentally eating a leaf.

Bay leaves’ subtle but distinct taste adds background complexity to the soup. They help bridge the various herbs and spices, tying them together into a well-rounded flavor profile.

9. Cloves

You might not think of cloves for split pea soup, but their warm, bittersweet flavor and faintly spicy aroma complement the peas surprisingly well. Cloves have an affinity for hearty bean and pulse dishes.

Start with 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves per pot of soup and add more slowly to taste. Allow the cloves to simmer in the soup so the flavor permeates the broth and peas. A touch of cloves enhances the soup’s inherent earthiness with its sweet yet spicy taste.

Just a small amount will do though, as cloves can become overpowering. Think of them as an undertone that brings out the best in the other seasonings.

10. Olive Oil

While not an herb or spice, a good quality extra virgin olive oil can make a difference in split pea soup. The flavor of the olive oil shines through and adds fruitiness and richness.

Use olive oil to sauté the soup’s aromatics like onions, carrots and garlic. Drizzle some nice fresh olive oil over individual portions for serving. This adds a lively pop of grassy, peppery olive flavor.

A nice fruity olive oil enhances the creamy texture of the peas and gives the soup a more luxe and mouth-coating feel. Even just a teaspoon or two makes a difference in flavor and mouthfeel.

11. Liquid Smoke

For a smoky background flavor, add a tiny amount of natural liquid smoke to the soup pot. Made from distilled smoke, liquid smoke provides a rich smoky essence without having to actually smoke anything.

Start with 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon liquid smoke per pot of soup and adjust to your liking. Add it early on so the flavor can infuse into the peas fully as they simmer. The touch of smoke pairs well with the earthy legumes and gives a taste reminiscent of traditional ham or bacon split pea soup.

A tiny bit goes a long way though, as more can make the soup taste overly artificial and bitter. Use a light hand and add liquid smoke drop by drop until the desired smoky flavor is achieved.

Tips for Using Herbs and Spices in Split Pea Soup

Now that you know the best herbs and spices for intensifying split pea soup, here are some tips for using them effectively:

  • Start with smaller amounts of dried herbs and spices and increase slowly. It’s easy to add more but impossible to remove.
  • Avoid adding all herbs and spices at once. Layer flavors by adding them in stages.
  • Sauté fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme in olive oil first to intensify their flavors.
  • Add woody herbs like bay leaves and rosemary early so they can simmer and infuse the broth.
  • Save tender herbs like parsley, basil, and chives for the end to preserve their vibrancy.
  • Use whole herbs and spices like bay leaves and peppercorns and remove them before serving.
  • Let flavors meld by simmering the soup at least 15-30 minutes after adding herbs and spices.
  • Adjust seasonings just before serving, once the flavors have had a chance to develop.
  • Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs right before eating.

Complementary Herb and Spice Combinations

Some herbs and spices just go better together. Here are some complementary combinations that work well in split pea soup:

  • Parsley, basil, oregano, and olive oil offer a fresh Mediterranean flavor
  • Bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary create an earthy herbal base
  • Onion, parsley, sage, and liquid smoke give a smoky and savory profile
  • Basil, cloves, and black pepper provide a subtly spicy and sweet blend
  • Chives, marjoram, and parsley make a mild yet aromatic mix

Sample Split Pea Soup Herb and Spice Blends

To help you get started crafting your own signature spiced split pea soup, here are a few recommended herb and spice blends:

Earthy Herbal Blend

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cloves

Fresh and Bright Blend

  • 1⁄4 cup parsley
  • 2 tablespoons basil
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Warm and Spicy Blend

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Dash of cinnamon and cloves

Savory Smoky Blend

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sage
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Feel free to customize these blends to suit your tastes and experiment with creating your own signature flavor combinations.


What’s the best way to add fresh herbs to split pea soup?

For delicate herbs like parsley, basil, and chives, add them in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking or stir them in right before serving. This preserves the vibrancy of their flavor and color. Heartier herbs like rosemary and thyme can be added earlier in the cooking process.

Is it necessary to use both dried and fresh herbs?

No, you can make great tasting split pea soup using either dried or fresh herbs, or a combination. Dried herbs have concentrated flavor so you typically need less quantity compared to fresh.

Which herbs and spices work for a slow cooker split pea soup?

Herbs like thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and bay leaves hold up well to long slow cooker cooking. Avoid adding more delicate herbs until the end. Whole allspice berries, peppercorns, or cloves infuse the broth nicely.

Can I prepare a vegan split pea soup without ham or bacon?

Absolutely! Use smoky herbs and spices instead of meat for flavor. Smoked paprika, liquid smoke, garlic powder, onion powder and even mushrooms can impart a rich, savory taste.

Is it necessary to soak or rinse split peas before cooking them into soup?

It’s not required, but soaking helps soften the peas so they cook faster. Rinsing removes dust and debris. Discard the soaking liquid to remove oligosaccharides that cause gas.

How can I puree my split pea soup for a creamier texture?

After cooking, use an immersion blender or carefully puree portions of the soup in a countertop blender before returning to the pot. Adding a bit of cream or olive oil also helps create a silky texture.

What sides go well with split pea soup?

Crusty bread, biscuits or cornbread are great for dipping. A green salad or coleslaw balance the soup’s richness. For heartier fare, pair it with a ham sandwich or grilled cheese.

What herbs and spices pair well with Asian-style split pea soup?

Ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, onion, scallions, sesame seeds, Chinese five-spice powder, cilantro and a touch of red pepper flakes. Avoid stronger Western herbs.


Split pea soup offers the perfect canvas for lettings herbs and spices shine. Parsley, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, and more can all enhance split peas’ natural earthy flavor.

By learning how to layer and balance herbs, spices, and other flavorings like olive oil and liquid smoke, you can craft a split pea soup with depth, complexity, and balance.

So next time a craving for split pea soup strikes, ditch the bland, boring broth and reach for this list of herbs and spices. With the right blend of seasonings, you can transform this humble soup into a truly mouthwatering dish.

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Best Herbs and Spices for Split Pea Soup

Discover the 11 best herbs and spices to elevate split pea soup, from parsley and thyme to cloves and bay leaves. Learn how to create flavorful combinations and customize your signature blend.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course herbs and spices
Cuisine American
Servings 1


  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Bay Leaves
  • Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Liquid Smoke


  • In a large soup pot, add the split peas, onions, carrots, celery, broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cloves, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peas are very soft.
  • Remove bay leaves. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired consistency.
  • Stir in the fresh parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with more salt, pepper, or herbs.
  • Simmer 5 more minutes before serving. Garnish bowls with extra parsley.
Keyword Best Herbs and Spices for Split Pea Soup

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